Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Jim Inhofe (R., Ok.), and Rick Scott (R., Fla.) introduced a bill on Thursday to revoke China’s permanent normal trade relation status.
The bill would return U.S.-China trade relations to their status before 2001, when the president was required to approve China’s “most-favored nation” status yearly. The legislation comes amid growing concerns about the entrenchment of U.S. companies in China, including whether supply chains for certain companies, such as Apple, involve the use of slave labor.
Under the terms of the bill, Congress would be able to override a president’s extension of most-favored nation status, and the legislation identifies specific offenses that would disqualify China from obtaining that status, including the use of slave labor or operation of concentration camps.
Senator Inhofe hailed the bill’s introduction, noting in a statement that he was the only member of the Senate still in office who voted against granting China permanent most-favored nation status in 2000. That vote paved the way for China to join the World Trade Organization.
“I said it 20 years ago and I will say it again: we cannot allow the pursuit of trade to blind us to certain realities about the ruling Communist regime in China,” Inhofe said. “To continue to ignore these actions as if they can be separated from what we do in our trading relationship is dangerously misguided.”
Senator Cotton said that the bill would improve the status of American workers whose jobs were outsourced to China over the past two decades.
“For twenty years, China has held permanent most-favored-nation status, which has supercharged the loss of American manufacturing jobs,” Cotton said. “It’s time to protect American jobs and hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their forced labor camps and egregious human rights violations.”
The bill was introduced ahead of the Biden administration’s first high-level meeting with Chinese representatives, which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security adviser Jake Sullivan are expected to confront their Chinese counterparts about the abuse and detention of Uyghur muslims, the anti-democracy crackdown in Hong Kong, and Beijing’s decision to ban imports of Australian wine in response to Australia’s call for a probe into the origins of COVID-19.